Secretary of Defense expected to recommend military COVID-19 vaccine mandate, reports say

Sec. of Defense Lloyd Austin
Posted at 5:51 AM, Aug 05, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-09 20:00:15-04

Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin is expected to recommend to President Joe Biden that COVID-19 vaccines be made mandatory for military members in the coming days, according to ABC News and CNN.

Both CNN and ABC News cited defense officials on condition of anonymity.

Such a recommendation could prompt Biden to issue a presidential waiver that would make the use of COVID-19 vaccines mandatory within the military before the Food and Drug Administration gives the shots full approval. COVID-19 vaccines made by Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson are currently only approved under emergency use authorization.

Both CNN and ABC News report that Austin's recommendation to Biden could come as soon as this week, along with a Pentagon recommendation with how to proceed.

The reports come a week after Biden asked the Department of Defense to "look into how and when" to add the COVID-19 vaccine to its list of mandatory vaccines.

ABC News reports that 70% of military personnel have gotten at least one shot of a COVID-19 vaccine. According to the CDC, 58% of the U.S. population has gotten at least one shot of a COVID-19 vaccine.

The Department of Defense already requires military members to be vaccinated against some diseases upon arrival at basic training and prior to deployment, according to the Department of Health and Human Services.

Military members routinely get vaccines to prevent "tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis, hepatitis A and B, varicella or chickenpox, measles, mumps, rubella, polio, and meningococcal," and troops stationed around the world receive other vaccines depending on the area in which they are serving.

Navy veteran Reginald Green says he understands skepticism about a mandate. He received the new and mandated anthrax vaccine in 1998, developed a cyst behind his ear and within a month, the headaches started coming.

"Most of the time, it's like someone steeping on my head, temple squeezing," said Green.

To this day his headaches linger on a daily basis. Doctors have not found any other cause.

A 2002 congressional report says 85% of surveyed service members have an adverse reaction to the vaccine. Several years later, the FDA classified it as safe but some military members — like Green — point to long-term, disabling effects.

When he sees another vaccine mandate on the horizon, he cringes.

"It's crazy. You should have a right to control what goes into your body," said Green.

Green says those who are reluctant will soon be faced with a decision.

"I think most will take it, and some will leave," said Green.